OP-ED: Violence in Norwalk is rising, and officials need to act
By Raul Samaniego
NORWALK – In a month where we have seen numerous violent episodes including the wounding of a resident in south Norwalk, the homicide of a man near Excelsior Drive and Pioneer Boulevard, and numerous shooting episodes within our city’s boundaries, I felt compelled to address the joint special meeting of the Norwalk City Council along with interim city manager James Parker, public safety director Carlos Ramos, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Captain Jim Tatreau and liaison Lt. Mike Inge.
This was done during the public comment portion of the public forum. I was the sole speaker.
Here is the body of that address:
Good evening. I am addressing you tonight as a resident of the City of Norwalk. Many of you and I have sat together in formal and informal situations. Some topics have been deemed “on the record,” some have been deemed “off.”
We’ve shared ideas, thoughts and scenarios.
We’ve laughed, we’ve sighed, and we’ve rubbed our heads for the same reasons. Some of us share even closer ties. We’ve gone to the same high school, community college and even the same university.
We in Norwalk are dealing with continuing violence including the murder, wounding and senseless shootings in just the last seven days.
The Council recently took measures to direct the city in “another direction.” However, we cannot rest. We need action now.
I am speaking to the entire city council. This is not the time to await a consensus vote or see what the tendency of your fellow elected officials are.
Additionally, you, interim city manager James Parker, in your expanded role as a public servant, are tasked with the moving forward expeditiously regarding this public safety concern.
People are dying on the streets of Norwalk. It makes no difference if they carry a label, a look or nothing discerning at all.
Will it take a stray bullet going into a house, then into a sleeping child or adult to have you take a reactive stance? Be proactive.
I am not an observer anymore. I am now a witness (again) in these crimes against my community, our community. Your community.
Norwalk is not a war zone, yet the sounds of war and it aftermath are now present.
Those sitting in front, like me, are residents. Those sitting besides me, may be visitors or employees. We are all a team.
As a team:
If we do not have the resources, get them.
If we do not have the resolve, find it.
If we cannot find the will, step aside.
For those of you who have never had a loaded weapon pointed at you or who have not heard the sound of a bullet spinning over your head, I hope you never do.
However, I am not one to offer concerns without suggestions.
Bring back the community-based Sheriff teams. If they exist now, bring them out of their seemingly covert existence. They are needed now.
Find resources. Here is the Homeland Security website on Grants available: https://www.dhs.gov/how-do-i/find-and-apply-grants
While we are a predominately Hispanic community with immigrant based roots, we no longer have a resident base with just one language defined as “other than English.” We need advocates who can reach out to our Philippine, Chinese and other emerging languages in our communities. All Americans don’t speak just English as their primary language.
Like some of you who have joined me walking door to door to address resident concerns, add teams of outreach members who actually visit residents when they are home, specifically on Saturdays or Sundays.
Redirect current resources from whatever funds are available.
Redefine our Public Safety Department to what it is, a public city hall ambassador. I do not want our senior aged or young people who are not law enforcement placed in a situation which clearly now dictates an increase in law enforcement personnel is required. Boots on the ground if that is the language you understand.
Find, allocate, and create funds for safety equipment rebates including: outside lighting, surveillance systems, removal of cover (Large vehicles, overgrown shrubbery).
Upgrade street lighting in those areas deemed too dark.
Confirm and implement the technology for the location of cell phone 911 callers.
This real or perceived delay in responding to emergency calls is unacceptable in this era of smart technology.
Granted, I may be in a position where I can contact any elected official directly or public servant through the bureaucracy of city hall “gate keepers,” I assure you, the safety of the residents and visitors of Norwalk is at my highest concern.